TYLA Officers


Rebekah Steely Brooker, President


Dustin M. Howell, Chair


Sam Houston, Vice President


Baili B. Rhodes, Secretary


John W. Shaw, Treasurer


C. Barrett Thomas, President-elect


Priscilla D. Camacho, Chair-elect


Kristy Blanchard, Immediate Past President

TYLA Directors


Amanda A. Abraham, District 1


Sharesa Y. Alexander, Minority At-Large Director


Raymond J. Baeza, District 14

    Aaron J. Burke, District 5, Place 1

Aaron T. Capps, District 5, Place 2


D. Lance Currie, District 5, Place 3


Laura W. Docker, District 10, Place 1

    Andrew Dornburg, District 21
    John W. Ellis, District 8, Place 2
    Zeke Fortenberry, District 4

Bill Gardner, District 5, Place 4


Morgan L. Gaskin, District 6, Place 5

    Nick Guinn, District 18, Place 1

Adam C. Harden, District 6, Place 6


Amber L. James, District 17


Curtis W. Lucas, District 9

    Rudolph K. Metayer, District 8, Palce 1

Laura Pratt, District 3

    Sally Pretorius, District 8, Place 2

Baili B. Rhodes, District 2


Alex B. Roberts, District 6, Place 3

    Eduardo Romero, District 19
    Michelle P. Scheffler, District 6, Place 2

John W. Shaw, District 10, Place 2

    Nicole Soussan, District 6, Place 4
    L. Brook Stuntebeck, District 11

C. Barrett Thomas, District 15

    Judge Amanda N. Torres, Minority At-Large Director

Shannon Steel White, District 12

    Brandy Wingate Voss, District 13
    Veronica S. Wolfe, District 18, Place 2

Baylor Wortham, District 7

    Alex Yarbrough, District 16


Justice Paul W. Green, Supreme Court Liaison


Jenny Smith, Access To Justice Liaison


Brandon Crisp, ABA YLD District 25 Representative


Travis Patterson, ABA/YLD District 26 Representative


Assistant Dean Jill Nikirk, Law School Liaison


Belashia Wallace, Law Student Liaison


TYLA Office

Tracy Brown, Director of Administration
Bree Trevino, Project Coordinator

Michelle Palacios, Office Manager
General Questions: tyla@texasbar.com

Mailing Address

P.O. Box 12487, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711-2487
(800) 204-2222 ext. 1529
FAX: (512) 427-4117

Street Address

1414 Colorado, 4th Floor
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 427-1529


Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.





























































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TYLA eNews Q&A for President-Elect Candidates (2012)

Editors Note: During the month of April, you will be able to vote for the next TYLA President-Elect. We asked the two candidates to answer the same set of questions. We encourage you to visit the websites for Shivali Sharma and Kristy Piazza.

1. Why do you want to be TYLA President?

Shivali Sharma
Lawyers are ambassadors for justice. I am infinitely proud to be a part of a profession that has the desire and means to shape a better world. I joined the Texas Young Lawyers Association Board with the personal goal of improving the unwarranted negative image of our honorable profession through public service. I am running for President-Elect because I am dedicated to this organization and to fostering and building our network of enthusiastic young lawyers who are eager to make a difference.

I have a clear vision for the future of TYLA and the experience to continue its tradition of excellence. As president, I will: (1) utilize technology to provide meaningful services to young lawyers; (2) provide solutions for attorneys and firms affected by the state of the economy; (3) create programs to serve and educate the public about their legal rights and responsibilities; (4) increase awareness of TYLA’s services through collaborative partnerships; (5) facilitate communication with affiliates; and (6) allow for better opportunities for participation by all young lawyers. To find out more about my qualifications and my vision, visit www.VoteShivali.com.

Kristy Piazza
I became a lawyer because of my ambition to help others. TYLA embodies this mission and has enabled me to help create and be involved with projects that make a difference in so many lives. I believe I am qualified to lead this outstanding organization because of my years of experience in leadership of this organization and other organizations in my community, my dedication to the legal profession, and my legal experience. I have been on the TYLA board since 2008 and have served as a Director and Secretary, and I am currently serving as Vice President. Through my years of service and leadership with TYLA, I have had the opportunity to lead committees and help create projects that have had a tremendous impact on our members, the legal profession, and the public. As for my legal experience, I have had a wide variety of experience in litigation, appellate work, and transactional matters, working at both large and small law firms, and juggling the pressures and obstacles in finding employment, meeting billable hour goals, and growing into an experienced and respected lawyer.

2. What do you see as the single greatest challenge facing young lawyers today?

Shivali Sharma
Recession in legal employment due to the state of the economy is a hurdle many young lawyers are facing today. To adequately provide meaningful, relevant service to our bar, it is imperative for TYLA to initiate programs that can offer real opportunity for those struggling in these tough economic times. If elected, I plan to create a series of free online court-appointment training webinars for unemployed and underemployed young lawyers. Addressing concerns of the high cost of overhead, I intend to create step-by-step instructional videos to teach law firms, associates, and those wanting to hang out their own shingle how to set up and manage virtual offices. I will also produce online educational seminars to coach young lawyers in financial planning.

Kristy Piazza
The economy. The economy has placed tremendous obstacles and stress on young lawyers. We have young lawyers who are unemployed and unable to find employment, lawyers who are employed who have had income cuts, layoff scares, and increased job requirements and lawyers who have had to go into practice on their own with little experience or support. I hope to provide young lawyers with tools that will help address these issues as this should be a top priority.

3. What is your favorite TYLA project?

Shivali Sharma
Although I have had the opportunity to help create many amazing TYLA projects, there is one that holds a special place in my heart. My mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer shortly after my graduation from law school. In addition to the stress and depression suffered by my family while trying to cope with my mother’s diagnosis, I felt guilty for being unable to answer some of the legal questions my parents asked me relating to my mother’s insurance. A colleague learned of my situation and mailed me a copy of the Legal Guide for Cancer Patients. My parents and I read this valuable resource together and found the answers we were looking for.

From that point, I was committed to spreading the word of this publication. My first order of business as President of the Texarkana Young Lawyers Association was to create a booth to distribute the Legal Guide for Cancer Patients at a local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. As a TYLA Director, I created push cards for the guide, distributed it to hospitals and patients, created presentations to facilitate roll outs of the guide, and spoke to groups to raise awareness of the project. The Legal Guide for Cancer Patients is the reason why I devoted myself to TYLA, and I am thankful for those individuals who had the vision for this program and gave their time to create it.

Kristy Piazza
I have had the fortunate opportunity to be involved in the creation, implementation, and production of numerous outstanding projects through my years of service with TYLA so I find it extremely difficult to choose just one. As Secretary, I was instrumental in the creation and production of the project entitled The Little Voice: Recognizing Child Abuse and Your Duty to Report It. The Little Voice is an award-winning DVD and pamphlet designed to educate professionals and the public on the signs to look for that may indicate a child is being abused, the process of reporting and investigating suspected child abuse, and the legal requirements to report such suspected abuse. This is one of my favorite projects because we all have family, friends, or clients that have been affected by child abuse and can benefit from this project.

4. What is your primary practice area, and how did you come to choose that area?

Shivali Sharma
I am a total nerd who has always been fascinated by all areas of the law. While I loved my private practice as a class action and securities litigator, I have always known that my true passion is the study of the law, its language and interpretation and the reasons why society controls and is controlled by this language. I wanted to learn more and found that opportunity when I became a permanent Staff Attorney for the Sixth Court of Appeals. This position has been everything I dreamed of. I have the chance to study complex appellate issues and specialize in many practice areas, both criminal and civil. To me, there is nothing cooler than getting to draft legal opinions and having a chance to impact the law. I feel that I hit the legal lottery and I cannot imagine practicing anywhere else.

Kristy Piazza
My primary practice area is family law. I handle cases involving divorce, child custody, child support, enforcement matters, paternity cases, adoptions, terminations, premarital and post-marital agreements, child protective service cases, appellate matters, and cohabitation agreements. My practice consists of litigation, transactional matters, appellate work, negotiating settlements, mediation, and collaborative law. I chose family law because I wanted to do something where I could make a difference in people’s lives. While in law school, I worked at a small family law firm and also volunteered with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program helping with pro se litigants. From my experiences there, I was exposed to numerous family law clients and cases, and family law seemed to fit my goals. I have always loved the satisfaction of being able to take a bad situation in someone’s life and help them find a positive resolution.

5. If you were not a lawyer, what would you be?

Shivali Sharma
A fat chef. I've always had a passion for food and feel a deep sense of satisfaction when I'm cooking for friends. But my willpower is no match for chocolate and cheese. I'm glad I'm a lawyer because I would cook and eat all day if I wasn't.

Kristy Piazza
If I was not a lawyer I would be a teacher. Prior to law school I worked as a teacher for a short time. I loved being able to help educate our youth and I have such a great respect for those who are in that profession. As a lawyer, I have had the opportunity to continue my love for teaching through conferences and CLE’s that I have been able to participate in, through mentoring younger lawyers and helping to provide them with support and experience to make them successful and to reduce stress loads, and through my work with TYLA.

6. What do you like to do for fun?

Shivali Sharma
I love to cook, host parties, travel, watch comedy, dance salsa with my husband, roast marshmallows in the fire pit, and play games. But hands down, my favorite activity is spending time with my family and friends. There is nothing that makes me happier than sharing a meal together or catching up over a cup of coffee.

Kristy Piazza
I love the outdoors so anytime I can break free from my law practice I like to do outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, running, and finding new places to explore. I recently went on a white water rafting trip through the Grand Canyon for seven days and had a blast. I also love photography and have developed a passion for landscape photography. I enjoy traveling to exotic and unknown places and taking landscape photography.

7. Family is important to you both. Please tell us a little about your family.

Shivali Sharma
I moved back to my hometown to be close to my family. My father Roshan has a private practice two blocks from where I work and my mother Usha is his office manager. I feel so lucky that I get to have lunch with them almost every day. My only brother Shivik also decided to come home after graduating from UT Austin. Although I am six years older than him, we are very close and see each other several times a week. He keeps me young.

My husband Jan Berrios is my best friend of ten and half years. He encourages me in everything that I do and always knows how to make me laugh. There is no one like him and no one I would rather spend time with. But spending time together has been a challenge for us lately. Jan was accepted to a Transatlantic History doctoral program at UT Arlington three hours away. I turn into a road warrior every other weekend so I can give him the support he gave me when I was in law school. We both deserve to live our dreams!

Kristy Piazza
I come from a very hard working family that has always been dedicated to service. This is where my passion for service and hard work are rooted. My grandparents were all farmers and my paternal grandfather had a cattle ranch in East Texas. As a child, I spent most of my summers in Canton, Texas at my grandparents’ farm. My father is a small business owner and my mother, although recently retired, worked in the textile industry. I have one sibling, a brother, who is four years younger and who works in the IT field.

Most of the men in my family have all served in some branch of the military, as police officers, or as firemen. My grandfather served in Pearl Harbour Harbor and was on one of the ships that sunk off the coast of Hawaii. I have 10 family members who currently are or were firemen or police officers in the DFW area.

I am the only lawyer in my family and my parents were the only generation on both sides of my family to attend college. I grew up in a small town south of Dallas called Cedar Hill where I lived and attended school until I attended college at Texas Tech and the University of North Texas. I got married on Valentine’s Day of this year to my husband Frank who is a home builder in Dallas.

8. What is the best advice you have been given about practicing law?

Shivali Sharma
Don't be afraid to find balance. The practice of law can be extremely fulfilling, but it will cease being so if it becomes overly stressful, burdensome, and hostile to your personal life. When it does, you have to recognize it and have the courage to make a change for the sake of your happiness.

Kristy Piazza
The most important thing you have as a lawyer is your reputation. In the practice of law, your reputation always precedes you. If you have a bad reputation, this affects your relationships and work with other lawyers, as well as your relationship with clients and ability to get new clients. Additionally, you will have a harder time getting the courts to listen to you or take you seriously. I continue to discover on a daily basis what a small world we live in. If you are disrespectful or dishonest with someone, chances are you will see that person again and will need to work with them in some capacity. So I try to always strive to act professionally in all settings, to treat others with respect, and to be honest.

9. What is your favorite television show?

Shivali Sharma
I reward myself by watching TV while I'm working out on my elliptical but I can't pick a favorite. I'll watch anything from Desperate Housewives to Dexter, Once Upon a Time to the Big Bang Theory, or Modern Family to The Middle.

Kristy Piazza
My favorite television show is Call of the Wildman on Animal Planet. I love to watch Turtle Man in his animal rescue adventures and am constantly amazed at what he can do.

10. What is your favorite city to vacation or visit?

Shivali Sharma
Although I have been lucky enough to travel the world, my home away from home is The Ocean Club in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. I love the option of taking a boat ride to a completely private island, trekking through the rain forest, or experiencing the nightlife and culture of Old San Juan.

Kristy Piazza
I love to visit Canton, Texas. Although my grandparents are both now deceased, I still make my way out to their farm to visit when I can and do some shopping at First Monday Trade Days while I am there. If you ever travel out there, my grandparents’ farm is off of FM 859 in Canton and has the sign my grandmother painted in front of it that reads “Help Somebody Today.”

11. What is your favorite restaurant and what should I order if I go there?

Shivali Sharma
I keep going back to Jamaica Gates in Arlington for the curry shrimp, live jazz and reggae.

Kristy Piazza
Javier’s in Dallas. It is hands down the best Mexican food in Dallas. If you go there you should try the Filete Cantinflas. It is a beef tenderloin fillet stuffed with Chihuahua cheese and seasoned butter, topped with chili mulatto sauce and sliced avocado. I’m getting hungry just typing this.

12. If you could attend any event, what would it be?

Shivali Sharma
My parents’ retirement party. I keep trying to get them to slow down and enjoy life but they are workaholics.

Kristy Piazza
I would love to attend any of the film or music industry award ceremonies and get dressed up and walk the red carpet. I have always wondered what they are all doing while we are on commercial.

13. What was the last song you sang when no one else was around?

Shivali Sharma
Blind Melon's No Rain. It's playing on my Jango station right now.

Kristy Piazza
Rolling in the Deep
by Adele. I love her!

14. What is the last book that you read?

Shivali Sharma
by Elie Wiesel.

Kristy Piazza
Same Kind of Different as Me
by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent. It is an amazing true story and I could not put the book down. Get your Kleenex ready though. It is a tear jerker!

15. If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would buy?

Shivali Sharma
An apartment in Napa so I could attend the Culinary Institute of America.

Kristy Piazza
I would buy a big piece of land where I could build a camp for children that could not afford to go to camp.

16. Who was your favorite cartoon character or Super Hero when you were growing up?

Shivali Sharma
Gem. She rocked!

Kristy Piazza
Wonder Woman was my favorite Super Hero growing up. As children, my friends and I would dress up like Wonder Woman, jump off couches and other objects and tie each other up with jump ropes so that we could be saved.

17. If you could have a dinner party and invite three famous people (living or dead), who
would you invite and why?

Shivali Sharma
Mother Teresa to teach the power of compassion, Martin Luther King to discuss the value of perseverance, and Julia Child to do the cooking and talk about being an OSS spy.

Kristy Piazza
My dad’s father because I never had the opportunity to meet him and he died when my father was 12 years old so I don’t know much about him. Christopher Columbus because I would love to know what it was like to be the first person to see and do something and to be in charge of a fleet of ships sailing into the unknown. I would also like to show him how his discoveries have changed the world and how our world has changed since his death. Mother Theresa because she is truly one of the most amazing people in our history. She is such an inspiration and lived her life so unselfishly. I would love to hear her words of wisdom.